Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 20
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress today agreed in principle to join hands with the Shiv Sena for the formation of an alternative non-BJP government in Maharashtra and said the new dispensation would be in place soon.
Clear signs of an emerging pact between the three parties appeared this evening after a crucial meeting between NCP and Congress leaders, who spoke on the nuances of government formation for over three hours.
“All three parties have agreed in principle to form an alliance and provide an alternative government to Maharashtra, which is reeling under agrarian distress. We are discussing all points of government formation and will declare the details once the final deal is sealed,” NCP leader Nawab Malik said after the meeting at the residence of NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
“For the last 21 days, there has been an atmosphere of political uncertainty in Maharashtra. With the intention of ending that uncertainty, the NCP and Congress leaders went into all aspects of the alliance formation. We had an extremely productive meeting. Some aspects are still to be discussed and therefore, we will continue talking over the next two days. I am sure we will be able to give Maharashtra a stable and an alternative government soon,” Congress leader and former Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan said, signalling his party chief Sonia Gandhi’s nod for a conditional pact with the Sena.
The discussions are learnt to have been held on the common minimum programme and the power-sharing formulation between the potential allies. The Congress is keen on laying claim to the portfolios of public delivery like rural development, which explained the presence of former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh at today’s meet.
The issue of state CMship is under intense discussion, with the Sena, which is adamant on the post, and the NCP negotiating a pie in the top leadership. So far, the ministerial berth division discussions between the Sena, NCP and Congress are 16, 14 and 12, respectively. Maharashtra can have 42 cabinet ministers besides the CM. Ideological differences would also have to be reconciled between all partners, with the Congress keen on getting some written assurances from the Sena.
Congress sources reminded the Sena of how the BJP placed its core agendas of Article 370 and Ram Mandir on the back burner to craft the NDA alliance under late AB Vajpayee. The Congress, for its part, has been veering towards supporting the Sena and the NCP for an alliance in Maharashtra but wants to go slow in negotiations and strike the best deal. Pawar prevailed on Gandhi to let the Congress join the government in Maharashtra for the sake of stability.
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